Boise's urban renewal agency used $30,000 of taxpayer funds to write and market legislation to change how urban renewal agencies are governed and operate. The revelation comes after inquiries by the Idaho Freedom Foundation to Boise's Capital City Development Corporation.
House Bill 567, which is being debated in subcommittee along with six other bills related to urban renewal and economic development, was written by lobbyist and attorney Ryan Armbruster for the Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC). The $30,000 CCDC paid is in addition to the annual retainer CCDC pays Armbruster’s firm.
Phil Kushlan, the CCDC executive director, said Armbruster’s firm has been the agency’s general counsel for years. As for how much Armbruster is paid for his services aside from HB 567, Kushlan said he didn’t know right offhand. “We have an annual amount plus on an hourly basis beyond that for specific legal issues.”
Kushlan said the agency vetted the draft legislation through other cities and urban renewal agencies before it was submitted to the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. “We sent it out to people and had them comment, and tried to respond to whatever issues they identified.”
Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, is a member of the Smith subcommittee, which is hammering out a final version of all seven bills related to urban renewal agencies and economic development. Roberts said he doesn’t like the idea of urban renewal agencies using tax dollars to lobby on behalf of their own agenda.
“It’s frustrating to me to see taxpayer dollars being used to lobby the legislature to create a path forward that makes it easier for more tax dollars to be spent. There’s a lot of circular reasoning here; these tax dollars come back to lobby themselves basically," Robert said. "Those are taxpayer dollars that could have been spent for, in this case, making improvements to the infrastructure in a blighted area, the way it was originally intended to be used.”
Former Senate Local Government Committee Chairwoman Rachel Gilbert of Boise, who is following the legislation, said, “I think it’s disgusting. My property tax dollars go to pay for their fees to promote urban renewal and expanding the law, and I don’t like it one bit.”
Roberts said the subcommittee is in the final stages of cobbling together pieces of House Bills 567, 568, 569, 570, 571, 572, and 578 into one final piece of legislation to be presented to the full House Revenue and Taxation committee.
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